7 Japanese Slang Words Your Textbook Isn’t Teaching You Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Culture

Do you know enough basic Japanese to get by? Are you looking to expand your knowledge of the Japanese language beyond the conventional learning methods? Then this post is for you.

First, know that the Japanese language is very contextual and what you say dependson who you are talking to.

For example, you use the honorific and humble forms in the work place with your managers and clients.

But when you hang out with close friends, you can be super casual and use innuendos and slang words. Let’s take a look at 7 common Japanese slang words below.

Disclaimer: These slang words are only meant to be used with close friends. Don’t say any of these words and phrases to someone older than you or to strangers of any age.


  1. おっす (ossu) = What’s up

Originally an extremely formal word used in the military, this word is still commonly used by martial arts practitioners.

Nowadays, it’s a slangy way to say hello among young people. Friends use it to greet each other and it can have many variations.

  1. こんちゃ(koncha) = Hi

This word is a slang variation of konnichiwa and it sounds less stiff. You use it when you meet and greet friends. And this is a tad more conservative than おっす.

Note: If you’re being introduced to someone for the very first time, sorry, you’d have to stick to konnichiwa.

  1. よー (yo) = Hey

This word is the usual way of saying “hey” or “hi” as a friendly greeting to some close friends. Don’t use it with strangers as it’s a bit too much and rather impolite.

  1. お前・おまえ (omae) = You

This means the personal pronoun “you.” If you watch enough Japanese dramas or movies, you’d often hear this uttered by the male characters in the show.

This word is extremely impolite except when used by close friends. Then it becomes more of a friendly insult.

  1. 調子どう・ちょうしどう (choushi dou) = How’s it going

This question can be used at social gatherings with friends and is a safe phrase to ask people how they are doing. It can mean “how have you been,” “what’s new,” or “what’s happening.”

  1. まあまあだよ (maa maa dayo) = So-so

This word means “not too bad,” or “it’s okay.” It can be used to refer to a book you just read or even your job. The underlying message is that it’s not all that good but still tolerable.

  1. ごめんちゃい/ごめんくさい (gomenchai/gomenkusai) = Sorry

These two words are slangy forms of ごめんなさい (gomennasai) and are sort of fun and light-hearted. You can say them if what you did wasn’t that serious or if you want to sound cute.

You can also use them if you are online and chatting with people or casually apologizing to a friend, when you don’t have to be so stiff and formal.

Note: In a more serious situation, if you want to apologize properly, you should say ごめんなさい.

Hope you had fun learning these slang words! Formality is an important aspect of Japanese communication. So make sure that you pick the right context to try out these slang words!

Author Bio

Karen’s love affair with the Japanese language started from the song “Say Yes” by Chage & Aska. She currently runs a Japanese learning website to marry her love of Japanese and flash games. You can learn and listen to other useful Japanese phrases at her website, JapaneseUp.

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  1. Joshua Swanson:

    These are slang but they are mainly Kansai Dialect. These are the equivalent of y’all in that they have spread because of TV and traveling.